Written by Mike
Although it may seem a bit out-of-context blogging for meals can actually be a great starting point. For those who are seeking alternatives to high-priced recipes, usually found in mainstream recipe books, a good blog-spot can be worth more than a barrel of high-end recipe cards. On the contrary, and for the general purpose of seeking out low-budget foods, you may find a treasure-trove waiting to be discovered.
Simply searching the right phrase can lead you to mountains of easy, inexpensive recipe alternatives. Thousands of bloggers have dedicated their time to reinvent “cooking on a dime”. Sites such as ‘Cheap Eats’ have tons of archived goodies waiting for the average chef to devour. One of the best parts is the flexibility that comes with today’s interactive recipe blogs. Not only can you find exactly what you need to feed your family in a pinch but the tricks of the trade are included free of charge. The blog-spots that I have visited have such great recommendations along-side their recipes. The comments enable the reader to see what others are saying, as well as displaying different variations of the original recipes. Pictures are generally posted, if not in the original recipe then at least by one of the adventurous chef’s, in order to display a recipes appearance and alternative spreads.
You may find that blogging can be a very interesting way to “meet & greet” with others who have the same tastes and preferences as you do. Individual circumstance such as vegan/vegetarianism, diabetics, gluten-intolerance, and so on can lead many people to a host of accommodating blogs. Specific dietary needs can be seemingly impossible to those who are affected. Diabetics and gluten-sensitive individuals may feel as though they can’t enjoy tasty meals, much less tasty and inexpensive foods. When it comes to dietary specifications you need not fret over tasteless and expensive meals; blogs have made this a worry of the past. I recommend that everyone sit down for at least ten minutes and search for recipe-blogs that fit their tastes and preferences. I have scavenged several online search engines for almost every dietary preference and sensitivity imaginable only to find accommodating and delicious alternatives for every one of them.
If you have some trouble beginning your search I recommend that you use the search engine’s ‘related searches’. Every search engine offers related searches and they can be very helpful when choosing the wording of your search. An example for vegetarians would be to look-up “cheap vegetarian recipes” then scope out the blogs pertaining to the results. You want to find a blogging community that focuses on your dietary preferences. Once you find one that suits your needs you’ll have everything you need to create inexpensive, wholesome meals.
Written by Brett McKay
One of the easiest ways to reduce your budget is reducing your food costs. Last week, I asked my awesome readers what they do to save money on food. The response I got was amazing! Frugal Law Student readers came up with 27 creative and frugal ways to save money on food. I’ve compiled all their ideas in to this post. I’ve put the name of the reader who contributed the idea next to the tip they provided. If they have a blog, I’ve included a link to it. (Make sure to check their blogs out!) Thank you to all my readers who contributed! Stay tuned for next week’s “Ask the Reader” question of the week!
1. I keep a spreadsheet of all my expenses, listed by day and category, so that’s a huge motivator to curb my eating out. A bag of groceries or a single meal at the same price? When I do go out for meals, I choose the “value menu” items at most fast-food places, the lunch special, or just a larger appetizer at sit-down restaurants. [Emily]
2. One of the best ideas for students is to get involved with campus organizations. I get a free dinner at least once a week from my various organizations’ meetings. (Free food is one of main points we use when trying to recruit members for the Student Alumni Association.) [Emily]
3. Buying in bulk when items are on sale is also helpful, though it takes some strategy. Sometimes I hold off on buying a $2-$3 jar of spaghetti sauce because I know that eventually (in a week or two), some brand will be 2-for-1 at about $1.94. [Emily]
4. Some of my staples are pasta (buy one, get one free boxes of $0.69 spaghetti), tortilla chips ($1 big bags) and hot sauce (under $2 huge bottle has lasted me over four months…and I use it a lottt), tortillas ($0.98 for 36 small ones), cereal (whichever brand is around $2/box that week), frozen veggies ($1/bag), and 3lb. bags of apples ($2 on sale). Of course I add more than this, but these are the “classic” items I always have on hand. [Emily]
5. And of course, I do save those ketchup packets (it would take me a year to use a bottle; I don’t use it often), Taco Bell sauce packets, sugar/Spelenda packets, etc…just a few here and there are great for items that I don’t use frequently enough to justify buying a larger quantity. [Emily]
6. I have found that making a menu for a week or two before going grocery shopping keeps me from spending too much. It means that I am only buying what I need instead of just replacing something that I may not use till next month! [Shawna]
7. Get a wok and a rice cooker. Put away all other cookware. Buy a large bag of your favorite rice and make it every day. Shop for veggies, fresh and in season. Be realistic about serving size and you’ll find it’s pretty cheap to eat healthfully. Add meat but not too much. Americans eat too much protein anyway. Make sure to take your vitamins. We exist happily as a family of 3 on $60-$75 a week with one good splurge, like crab or lobster. [Jasi]
8. People often think Ramen noodles are just for broke people but I happen to love them. I also just take the noodles sometimes and throw them into a stir fry which is awesome.
For a treat, I will make chicken ramen noodles as a side dish and throw in a few frozen shrimp from Sam’s club. It makes it a little more sophisticated. [chitown]
9. Getting extra napkins from fast food places is also a good idea so you don’t have to waste paper towels or buy napkins. I also use cloth hand towels when I am eating which I can just wash. Better for the environment too. [chitown]
10. For those of us trying to go with a healthy lifestyle (hey, save $ on health care costs at least), a big saver is a CSA membership. Frequently, farms near cities will make a once a week dropoff to people who pre-pay, and this gives you fresh, local, frequently organic fruit and veggies at a bargain price (provided, of course, that it’s a decent growing season). Moreover, the one I joined (Jug Bay in MD, which serves the DC region) gives you money off for “sweat equity” if you volunteer to help out at the farm. [Tawnya]
11. Don’t drink soft drinks or bottled water! You CAN exist on tap water. You don’t need to buy those crazy filters either. We drink lots of water and then we have a 6-pack of beer on the weekend (2 per night for one person, or 1.5 beers for two people). Also, if you go out to eat – don’t drink any alcohol or soft drinks in the restaurant – drink water. You can usually buy a whole bottle of wine for the cost of a glass at a restaurant. [K-Lo]
12. Find a farmer’s market or weekend produce stand and ask the sellers if you can have their leftover produce, whatever won’t keep until the next time they sell. I get literally tons of food every year this way. We eat it fresh and can a lot of it for later use (salsas, jams, pickled asparagus, etc.) I share it with friends and neighbors and others via freecycle. It takes a lot of work, as I have to sort out and compost the rotting/ stuff, but generally most of it is quite edible. The produce sellers are relieved they don’t have to haul it away and throw it out. [Marcia]
13. Make a list and don’t buy anything that isn’t on it. [FinanceandFat]
14. Go to the websites of your local grocery stores and check out the ads, I typically do this on Sunday and make my big shopping trip on Monday. Find the store that has the best deals on the items like and plan your meals for the week heavily using the items on sale. [FinanceandFat]
15. If food that can be stored a long time without going bad is on sale stock up! [FinanceandFat]
16. Don’t go shopping too often. The longer you can go before hitting the store, the less you’ll spend. [Emily]
17. Eat vegetarian meals fairly frequently (we started with once a week and have worked our way up). [Emily]
18. Take the time to do prep work instead of buying convenience. It saves a ton of money, especially if you have one spouse who’s home more than the other. Dried beans instead of canned, whole vegetables instead of frozen stir-fry mixes, etc. [Emily]
19. Try to have a cart full of ingredients, instead of a cart full of ready to eat food. Then, I take the time to bake muffins, bread, make granola, etc. instead of buying the packaged versions. It adds up really quickly, especially considering I can buy 25 lbs of flour on sale for less than $5 and 25 lbs of sugar for $8. [Emily]
20. Go veggie, without necessarily going soy (many meat imitation soy products are very expensive for what you get). Use canned beans and vegetables and buy non-perishables in bulk. (Curried chickpeas and rice? Still the best, cheapest, most nutritious meal I know. [strange bird]
21. Also, ethnic markets. Cheapest and most variety. [strange bird]22. If you eat meat, get the “value pack” of 5-10 lbs and split it into smaller portions. I usually wait until the meat has a “reduced for quick sale” sticker, then freeze it the moment I get it home. [Bety B]
23. When you cook, make two extra portions and freeze them. If you have something that’s easy to fix when you don’t feel like cooking, you’re less likely to order pizza. [Bety B]
24. If you have an off-brand grocery store (like Aldi) near you, give it a try. The food is very inexpensive, and most of it is the same quality as the name-brand stuff. [Bety B]
25. I’ve spent the last few months putting together a “price book” in excel, nothing fancy just a basic list. What I found is that it doesn’t save money as much as make me aware of what food costs. Just noticed that the price of the milk took a huge jump, as well as other things were more expensive than what I though (fruit in particular). As well I realized that I tend to buy the same things every week. [rob in madrid]
26. You’ve got to become comfortable with cooking, or at least preparing, meals. Buying the staples of a meal is the absolute best way in my opinion to save money on food. Choose things that can be used in a variety of ways: Rice (steamed rice plain, with stir fry, chicken, fried), meats (frozen lean chicken breast can be used in a lot of different ways and keeps for a while), vegetables (frozen and canned keep more than fresh and can be used in a lot of ways as well), and last but certainly not least pasta. It’s filling, versatile (hot with pasta sauce, cold in salads), lasts for a while, and whole wheat pasta is pretty cheap. [Jake]
27. I don’t often find that things go unused or that I don’t like things– of course, I chose a coop that grows a lot of things I like, most of them have lists on their websites– I even got a watermelon last week, which was pretty cool. Of course, sometimes I get things that I need to google uses for (like epazote, which it turns out is amazing with beans– who knew?), and some weeks I don’t cook a few days in a row and then have to cook to feed my freezer. Luckily , this usually means that during the winter, when veggies aren’t delivered and I’m feeling lethargic, there are healthy meals in the freezer and I don’t have to get takeout. [Jake]
Written by Brett McKay
When creating a budget, one of the easiest ways to reduce spending is to reduce your food expenses. Right now, my wife and I are spending $325 on groceries a month, and about $50 a month on eating out. Our biggest tool to keep spending down is using a list. I’ve written about other things you can do to get more out of your grocery dollar, but I’m interested in what you do to save money on food. How do you save money on food? I’m looking for anything. Do you save ketchup packets? Eat ramen? Let us know! Drop a comment with your best money saving tips on food. At the end of the week, I’ll collect all the tips and write them up in a post. Here’s your chance to contribute to creating content on The Frugal Law Student! I’m looking forward to reading your tips!
Written by Brett McKay
Last week, I wrote about how you can save $1440 a year by brown bagging it. I’ve had a few readers ask what exactly I bring to eat every day. Here’s what I normally bring.
Grilled chicken breast. My wife buys a big bag of chicken breasts and grills them once a week. She freezes them until needed. They taste pretty yummy with pepper and other seasonings on it. By buying in bulk, we save some money.
Mixed vegetables. These are your basic mixed bag of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. We’ll buy several big bags of the store brand vegetables, so it’s pretty cheap. One bag can last me about 3 days. All we do is dump them in a bowl and microwave them.
Curry Lentils. Lentils are the most underrated food. First, they’re super cheap. A bag costs like a $1 and it lasts me a week. Second, they’re filling. I was surprised how full I was the first time I ate a serving of lentils. Lentils by themselves are pretty boring, so I spice it up by mixing some curry paste in.
We keep all this stuff in the fridge in containers. Each morning I dump them all together in a single serving size container. I sprinkle some cheese on top and boom! A quick, cheap, and nutrient dense meal. I’ll also bring a container of yogurt and some almonds for an afternoon snack. All this goes into my handy red and black cooler.
I’m pretty boring. I can eat the same thing everyday and not get sick of it, so eating this meal everyday is not a problem. I’ve always been like this. When I was a wee lad, I would eat nothing but mayonnaise and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If eating the same thing day in and day out isn’t your thing, be sure to check Erica’s great post on 12 Easy, Cheap, and Healthy Meals for some more great cheap lunch ideas.
Written by Brett McKay
Lots of law students at my school go out to eat for lunch everyday. They’ll often head over to the student center to pick up a slice of pizza and drink or sandwich. I’ll admit, the stuff at the union is pretty yummy, but it will set you back about $8 each time you go. If you go out every weekday, that’s about $40 bucks a week. There are roughly 36 weeks in a school year, so $40 times 36 is $1440 a year.This figure isn’t even taking into account going out to eat on the weekends.
Quick tips on how to brown bag it
- Leftovers. This is probably the quickest and most delicious way to brown bag it at school. Make a huge dinner for yourself on Sunday night, and bring the leftovers for lunch for the next few days. You’ll get something substantial and yummy for pennies on the dollar.
- Prepare lunches a week in advance.My lunch lately consists of a chicken breast, mixed vegetables, and lintels. Yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes cooking the lentils and nuking a bag of mixed vegetables. I’ll probably cook some chicken today. Now all I have to do is just dump everything in a container in the morning, and I’m good to go.
- Get a lunch cooler.If you don’t have access to a fridge, make sure you have an insulated lunch cooler bag. I use an insulated lunch box cooler with an ice pack that we had laying around the house. It does a great job keeping my food nice and cool.
- Eat outside.Right now the weather is pretty nice in Oklahoma. I’ve been taking my lunch outside so I can get out of the library. It feels good to be outside and after 30 minutes, you’ll feel rejuvenated.
- Be productive. Another benefit of bringing your own lunch is that you save time. Instead of having to drive over to a restaurant, standing in line to order, leisurely eating your food, and then driving back to school, I just go to my locker, grab my lunch, and eat all in about 30 minutes. I probably save about an hour a day doing this. I can use that time to outline and work on my law review article.
What to do with the savings
So you save $1400 a year. What are you supposed to do with the savings? If you sock it away in an index fund for the next 10 years, you’ll have over $24,000. You could also put that money in a high yield bank account and use it for books the following year.
Don’t forget to enter into my Chambermaid giveaway! Contest ends September 13!
Written by Brett McKay
This is a guest post by Erica, a 1L at UC Davis. If you’re interested in writing a guest post at The Frugal Law Student, Contact me. Thanks, for the great post Erica!
One of my big challenges as a law student on a budget is to find recipes that fit all of these criteria. I’ve included 12 of my boyfriend and my staples. This gives a nice two week rotation since we usually end up cooking about 6 times a week. I would love to know if anyone else has other ideas.
Note: We cook with a lot of green pepper because they are cheap and local here in CA. You might want to substitute whatever fits that description in your area. These recipes generally feed 2 people generously. Also, I usually sauté in olive oil but some sort of broth or white wine also works if you are really trying to cut out fats.
- White Beans and Tomatoes - You need: Crock-pot, Olive oil, onion, garlic, 3 6” stalks of fresh rosemary, large can of diced tomatoes, and 2 cans of white/northern beans. Sauté chopped onions in olive oil in the crock-pot on the high setting for about 15 minutes. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and let it cook on low in the crock-pot for however long you want. Nothing in this recipe needs cooking so its just a matter of the longer it cooks together the more flavor it will have. I live in Northern California and rosemary is a ubiquitous landscaping plant here so I have an endless free supply. I think it is prolific in other parts of the country too. You might add a little cumin or Tabasco sauce too. Serve with brown bread and a little parmesan cheese.
- Black Bean Salad – You need: 1 can black beans, 1 can corn or frozen corn, 1 lime, ~2T fresh chopped cilantro, a fresh veggie (I like green pepper or tomato or avocado if you want to splurge). Add all ingredients to a tuper-wear and juice the lime. You might also add some chili powder or tobasco. Let it marinate together for at least 30 minutes. Eat with corn chips.
- Pasta – You need: whole wheat pasta, jar of marinara sauce (I like Classico’s selections), chopped frozen broccoli, parmesan cheese. I like to mix all these ingredients together but you could eat broccoli as a side dish.
- Ramen Stir Fry – You need: 2 pack ramen noodles, green pepper, onion, 3 eggs, 2T roasted peanuts, stir-fry seasoning. Soak the ramen noodles in warm water while you prep other ingredients. Sauté onion and green pepper. Add 3 eggs and scramble in the same pan as onion and green pepper but keeping the egg somewhat separate. Add the noodles and seasoning. I like to season with a sauce made from soy sauce, ginger, a little sesame oil, a little brown sugar, and quite a bit of lime juice.
- Burritos – You need: Green pepper, onion, can of black beans, tortilla’s, cheese and salsa. Sauté green pepper and onion. Add black beans and season with chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and lime juice. Serve on flour tortilla’s with cheese (I think grating is worth it) and salsa.
- Fried Rice – You need: Rice, frozen peas, 2 eggs, onion, garlic, soy sauce, and ginger. I like to make rice ahead of time on the weekend and eat it several times. I usually cook rice in chicken bouillon for flavor. So sauté onion and add frozen peas to defrost. Scramble eggs in same pan. Add rice, ginger, and garlic. Add soy sauce and some sesame oil to taste.
- Curry Mushroom “Chicken” - You need: Cooked chicken breast or fake chicken (I like Quorn), frozen chopped broccoli, cream of mushroom soup, lemon juice, curry powder, shredded cheddar cheese. Defrost frozen items in microwave. Add a scoop of mushroom soup, ½ T of curry powder, some lemon juice and shredded cheddar to the bowl and microwave again. You could eat with brown rice.
- Baked potato – Baked potatoes are great because you can put so many things on top of them. Some of the thing I like to put on are Morningstar crumbles (fake hamburger meat), sautéed mushrooms (season with Worcestershire), broccoli, salsa, shredded cheese, or black beans.
- Salmon Cakes – You need: 1 can pink salmon, 1 can white/northern beans, lemon juice, dill or thyme, minced garlic, 1 egg. Mix all ingredients together mashing beans and salmon. Make into patties and fry in olive oil. Serve on brown bread and add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream if you like.
- Veggie Burgers – Buy a pack of frozen veggie burgers (Morning star veggie burgers will usually go on sale for about $.75/patty.) serve on wheat toast (b/c I don’t like to buy special buns) with thinly sliced cheese and mustard.
- Hot dogs – Depending on whether cheap or healthy is more important to me at the time, I will buy veggie hot dogs (healthy) or turkey hot dogs (cheap). We like eating them on whole wheat sandwich bread with sauerkraut and mustard. We usually have a can of baked beans on the side.
- Heuvos Rancheros – You need: 4 eggs, flour tortillas, black beans, salsa, and shredded cheese. Scramble eggs. Warm tortillas in the microwave. Warm black beans sprinkled with lime juice, chili powder, and garlic powder in the microwave. Top tortillas with beans, egg, shredded cheese, and salsa.